Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

People – 1, MID – 0, in Best of 7

By Emerson Drake

After a hard-fought battle the people of Stanislaus County emerged victorious.  But we can’t let our guards down.  Modesto Irrigation District could decide to re-open the issue at any time and General Manager Allen Short is probably already exploring a way around the Board. 

                                               The Seventh Inning Stretch

The letter from the SFPUC  didn’t arrive in time for the public meeting.  It magically appeared during the closed session. Between the suspect timing of the letter’s arrival, and the realization that their terms had been rejected, three of the Directors had finally had enough. Larry Byrd, Nick Blom, and Paul Warda, to paraphrase, said enough was enough.  Directors Van Groningen and Wild went apoplectic!  They argued vehemently to bring one of the opposing Directors around to no avail.  And in a move of political butt-covering decided to make the vote unanimous.

Of course Dir. Van Groningen went from newspaper to newspaper making specious  claims of being unhappy with the contract, but what we need to remember is that he was ready to sign this terrible contract back in January. So his words, as far as I’m concerned, fall on deaf ears. 

Now it appears we get to see how the staff was divvying up the money before the water contract was signed, or maybe this is the kind of spending that got them so deep in the red.  As you’ll see, it really does pay to stay for the budget workshop.

                                               The Scouting Report

The budget workshop showed, at least in some people’s eyes,where they had intended to spend some of the water sale money.  Allen Short is requesting in the 2012 budget $30,000 dollars to spend for his outer office.  Eyes were raised when the figure was announced.  Allen said the money was going for two desks and a counter.  Pretty fancy desks and one heck of a counter.

So why should $210,000 for carpeting the second floor in the 2014 budget bother anyone?  At $61.76 per square yard installed we should be happy. Buying 3,400 yards I’m sure they got a discount.   The justification they used was “The carpet is difficult to clean and make presentable.” 

What’s the big deal about an $8,000 ice machine?  Just because the old one  still works and they’re keeping it for the employees to use, what’s the problem?  Must be nice to work for the ivory tower at the Taj Mahal.  You’d think since they didn’t have to make any concessions regarding their health insurance or to contribute to their retirement (except for new employees) they’d be happy, except of course for the new people who were thrown under the bus and will be required to help pay for both.

Did I mention the proposed management raises?  A Public Information Request came back saying they don’t have anything on paper regarding them.  Allegedly they want the Board to vote on unknown raises for unknown people.  Don’t get me wrong, Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild are ready to vote for them and are insisting if the rank and file gets a raise so does management. 

Could it be some of the members of  this Board are tired of being led around by the nose?  Allen Short doesn’t believe it yet or at least isn’t willing to admit it. Allen is spending money like he isn’t accountable and is readying his golden parachute.  And where does Attorney Tim O’Laughlin fit into all of this?  He’s still on schedule to make $ 1 Million from MID this year.  The ever churning lawyer keeps playing both ends against the middle and collecting from both as usual.  Remember how O’Laughlin told the Board they had nothing to worry about from the garbage burner lawsuit?  They didn’t. Endsley collected $1.2 Million and  O’Laughlin collected $97,000.  No worries, it came from the ratepayer’s pocket, not the Board’s.

The Modesto Irrigation District has played fast and loose with the Brown Act.  Dir. Van Groningen does what ever he wants and O’Laughlin stays quiet.  Unless he’s arguing with one of the Board members.  And O’Laughlin himself presides over the violations of the Public Information Act requests. Why he’s still there is beyond belief.

Since the Board meeting is tomorrow I want to mention Martino Graphics.  At last weeks meeting I specifically asked Dir. Van Groningen what the $3,000  to Martino Graphics was being spent on in last weeks warrants. He asked the staff but they stayed quiet (could they have been instructed to do so since Denise Ray, the head of Purchasing, was in the audience?)  They did place the question on this weeks agenda thanks to Directors Byrd and Warda (Van Groningen and Wild remained quiet).  Amazingly enough Van Groningen and Wild signed for the payment on September 4,2012.  A case of sudden amnesia?  I sent an email to the Board this morning and asked them to include three more Martino invoices in the discussion, two at $3,000 and one for $9,000.  I had already talked with Van Groningen during the Capital Budget workshop last week about this but felt it was important to document the request.

Did I mention all of the preceding in an attempt to document everything?Heck no I left out about half.  Did you know they want to spend more money for the Mountain House infrastructure?  But that’s enough for now.  It all goes to show we can’t let our guards down now.  Yes, we should enjoy the victory for now.  But until Tom Van Groningen and Glen Wild are off the MID Board and we get some people who are concerned and won’t be led around be the nose by Short and aren’t intimidated by O’Laughlin, and don’t have the ability to subvert conscious thinking at the Bee (if indeed it ever existed), we as a community won’t be free of outrageous electrical rates or able to ensure our children’s future with plentiful clean water.

So to finish up  with the baseball metaphor I started with, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings and she’s not even at the ballpark yet.


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